In September 2008, I contributed this "Future Shock" vision of computing in 2018 to InfoWorld:
Smartphones take center stage: I see the smartphone evolving into the preferred instrument for constant connectivity, with voice interaction, facial recognition, location awareness, constant video and sound input, and multi-touch screens. The keyboard won't go away completely, but it might be virtual: Think about typing in the air on an image projected from your "smart glasses." Business desktops would evolve into docking stations for your smart phone, with large screens and input devices, Gigabit or better connectivity, and local resources comparable to one of today's big servers (technical desktops would be similar, but with way more onboard CPU and GPU power as well as massive memory and storage, all connected to massive servers and cloud resources. In this vision, the laptop nearly goes away.
Recently, I've seen glimmerings of hope that pieces of this vision might actual become real. For example, at TED India, Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry of the MIT Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces Group demonstrated SixthSense, a "wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment." This is a pendant that combines a camera with a projector and could indeed provide a highly portable interface for a smartphone.
[ For more on the future of computing, see InfoWorld's "10 future shocks for the next 10 years." | Find out which smartphone wins the "Ultimate mobile deathmatch: iPhone vs. BlackBerry vs. Droid vs. Pre." ]
Closer to home, I've been playing with a beta-test version of a $100 commercial "docking station" between a BlackBerry and a PC that's basically a Bluetooth USB key and some software, called Bayalink Liberty.
The picture below shows the Liberty in action (click on it to see a full-size screen):
Since I've been using the BlackBerry (a Tour 9630 on the Verizon network) connected to BlackBerry Internet Service rather than a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, I've only been able to see the benefits of this setup to a consumer: It's much easier to deal with BlackBerry mail, I can view attachments on the PC, and I can tether a laptop to the BlackBerry for occasional out-of-office connectivity.
As I understand it, Enterprise users can also get into their office networks over the PC-BlackBerry connection without having a VPN. In addition, the Liberty can create a virtual tunnel for Citrix applications.
Although the consumer benefits of Liberty are nice, they don't strike me as necessary. Liberty shines when working with native BlackBerry mail, making quick work of synchronization issues and attachments. However, a combination of the GMail BlackBerry client and standard GMail running in a browser on the PC accomplishes nearly the same things.
That said, road warriors interested in using their BlackBerrys to Web-enable their laptops where free Wi-Fi is scarce may find Liberty a welcome addition to their toolbox.
A full video about Liberty is available.